I grabbed a pile of dust, and holding it up, foolishly asked for as many birthdays as the grains of dust, I forgot to ask that they be years of youth.
~Ovid, Metamorphoses

This month is so blessedly confusing. William Shakespeare turns 400 this month, who wrote incredulous prose, theater and poetry,  (some scholars opine April 23 as his birth + death both), Elizabeth II who still endures (born April 21, 1926) not only navigated WW II but the British Empire fall, spells 90 years today — then my daughter, one of my sons and my bed mate, well, have sort of met “milestones”…Yikes!  How to celebrate.

I have had the honor to meet the steadfast, tight lipped, dutiful Queen Elizabeth II and actually the baby blue eyed, amiable Queen Mother at the elegant Badminton Trials outside of Bath, England, with its dearth of dog breeds and horses (courtesy of the royal life boaters’ urgences), and obviously happened on to my piquant “bookmark” via others and sometimes alone. My children and their children, both presently and to-be…the season has all been bewildering.

The exalted Bard is a tad ancient even though his works are ineludible — his dramas and comedies are just damned astonishing. There is so little space here to expound upon his pervasive work, so apologies in advance to all for any short shrift. Much like Shakespeare’s quote in Merchant of Venice: “You speak an infinite deal of nothing.” 

Perhaps probably should have saved Scones (May 23, 2009), Dickens & Tikka Masala (February 7, 2012) or Scotch Eggs, Sort of (January 7, 2016) for this page. You no doubt get the English drift. Oh, well. But please do not be disappointed because it all remains good grub.

I must say though, that rognons are sublime…had them three times in a row in Paris, all at the same resto, once watching the sous-chef carving an exquisite lamb shoulder roast for ma femme who appeared decidedly perplexed (with good cause).

The past intrudes — as it should.

KIDNEYS ON TOAST

8-10 lamb or veal kidneys, or so
3 T all purpose flour
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dash of cayenne pepper

2 T unsalted butter
2 T extra virgin olive oil
3-4 fresh garlic cloves, plump and fresh, peeled and smashed
1-2 fresh shallots, peeled and sliced

3 t Dijon mustard
3 t soy sauce or apple wine vinegar
3/4 C chicken stock
1/2 C dry white or red wine

8 slices artisanal bread, such as ciabatta, toasted
Parsley leaves, chopped
Orange zest

Eggs, local and fried or poached

Remove gristle, nerves, core and internal membrane from each kidney, leaving the halves intact. Rinse well and pat dry. Combine flour, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper on a plate and mix well. Coat each kidney in flour mixture, and shake well to remove excess. Then again, season the kidneys directly with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper and then dip them in flour (my choice).

Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat and add butter, oil, plus garlic and shallots. Once butter has melted and has begun to bubble, but has not browned, discard garlics and shallots, add kidneys and cook until browned, about 2 or so minutes. Flip each kidney and brown on other side, about 2 or so minutes.

Add dijon mustard, soy sauce, stock and wine to skillet, whisking some. Simmer kidneys until done, about 2 minutes. Remove kidneys to glass bowl cover with foil and allow to rest. Once stock has thickened, remove pan from heat and taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper, after tasting.

Slice each kidney to your liking and place on toast. Top with cooked eggs.

Serve dribbled with sauce and adorned with chopped parsley and orange zest.

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Zestful Sweet Spuds

November 12, 2009

Said Aristotle unto Plato,
“Have another sweet potato?”
Said Plato unto Aristotle,
“Thank you, I prefer the bottle.”

~Owen Wister

A moist, spicy autumn darling. The sweet, dense flesh of sweet potatoes is enhanced by the variegated zing of coconut milk, curry paste, nutmeg, cinnamon…and that hint of orange on orange on the finish. Something about redheads.

MASHED SWEET POTATOES WITH COCONUT, CURRY
& ORANGE ZEST

4 lbs sweet potatoes
4 T unsalted butter

3/4 C coconut milk
1 T Thai red curry paste
1 T honey
1/2 T light brown sugar
1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 t ground cinnamon

Sea salt and freshly ground black (or white) pepper

Zest of 1 orange

Preheat oven to 400 F

Prick potatoes with a fork in several places. Bake potatoes until quite tender, about 1 hour. When cool enough to handle, peel and mash well with butter.

Meanwhile in a medium heavy saucepan, heat coconut milk with curry paste, honey, brown sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon over low heat and whisk until well mingled. Stir enough coconut/curry mixture into mashed sweet potatoes to achieve the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Immediately stir in orange zest and serve.

My idea of heaven is eating pâté de foie gras to the sound of trumpets.
~Sydney Smith

Is there a food stuff that causes more audible moans than foie gras? And these are the genuine, euphoric, bone deep type—not the staged purrs of a cleavaged Giada undulating under hot lights popping risotto balls and sucking her fingers.

Foie gras has been the subject of a recent food fight, courtesy of animal rights advocates…almost like the new fur. The controversy rose to the level of having these delicacies outlawed in the Windy City in a move much akin to a ban on sex or wine. A two year prohibition on serving these heavenly morsels, which was openly flaunted by restauranteurs, was repealed by an overwhelming vote. There seems to be nothing more entertaining than the ever shifting dramas orchestrated or stumbled upon by Chicago’s aldermen.

Most American foie gras is gleaned from Moulard ducks which are a cross between the Muscovy and Pekin species.

SEARED FOIE GRAS WITH FIGS, PORT WINE & LAVENDER HONEY

1 whole duck foie gras, about 1 1/2 pounds, slightly chilled
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 T unsalted butter

1 T extra virgin olive oil
6 fresh black mission figs, halved
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
6 tarragon leaves, chopped
1/2 C port wine
2 T apple cider vinegar
1 T orange juice

2 T unsalted butter, room temperature
1 T lavender honey (warmed) or raw unprocessed honey
1/2 t orange zest
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Rinse the foie gras and pat dry with paper towels. Carefully pull apart the 2 lobes of the foie gras and with your fingers remove the veins that are lodged between them. Cut away any extraneous fat and green spots and pull away any membranes. On the inner side of the small lobe, carefully pull away the large vein that runs through the center and remove any smaller veins that branch out from it. With the larger lobe, locate the larger central vein and remove it with any attached veins.

Using a sharp knife dipped in boiling water, slice each lobe into 1″ medallions. Score the top of each medallion in a diagonal pattern and season with salt and pepper. Add the butter to a heavy skillet over medium head and sear the medallions for 30-45 seconds per side. Please be careful not to overcook or you will be rewarded with a puddle of expensive melted fat. Remove to a platter lined with paper towels to drain and tent.

Lower heat to medium and pour out a bit of the rendered duck fat. Add the figs, cut side down, then add the shallots and tarragon, cook until figs are brown, about 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with port, apple cider vinegar, and orange juice, cooking about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and vigorously whisk in butter, honey, orange zest, salt and pepper. Spoon over foie gras slices which are arranged over a slice of grilled or toasted toast and surrounded by figs.